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December 16, 2013

Roy Williams Live: December 16

UNC is celebrating yet another win over a national basketball power as they downed the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday 82-77.

The win gives UNC its third win over a ranked opponent this year although it almost seems pedestrian in comparison to the wins over the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals and the then No. 1 ranked Michigan State Spartans.

But make no mistake about it---the win was a big one and one that almost erases all doubts that the losses to Belmont and UAB were more aberration than trend. UNC Head Coach Roy Williams took to his radio show to try and put into words the atmosphere in the Dean Dome this weekend.

"It was a fun night in the Smith Center. The crowd was sensational. The white out was great. If I had thought of it I would have grabbed somebodies shirt and put it on before I jogged out of there. I was more interested in getting into the locker room at the end of the game," said Williams. "Our kids really felt good. The locker room was a lot of fun. No question about that. It was a tough game. You know, it wasn't real neat and pretty or anything like that, but we had some adversity during the course of the game and I think the toughness that we had was really big for us.
The little rascal was something else, Marcus Paige, and James Michael McAdoo too, James Michael was big too. But that second half by Marcus Paige was about as good as it gets."

Paige's performance was a tale of two halves as he was nearly held scoreless in the first half before exploding in the latter half.

He's made a habit of coming up big in situations where the Heels have needed him most and the last game was no exception.

"At halftime he was 0-5 and his only two points were from the technical (at the line). He basically played 30 minutes without scratching. He was really in tune with what we wanted to do during the game. When he was missing shots he was just trying too hard," said Williams. "I told our staff 'In the second half, he'll be really good.' I really believed that. I think he took it upon himself to be a little more aggressive. Me and Hubert Davis and a couple other players, I tease him all the time that I hate those stupid little floaters, but when they go in God-Almighty are they pretty."

Paige has been the unquestioned leader for this team and that leadership extends to the stat sheet and the locker room.

"His toughness and the mental part of his game, it's just off the charts. Last year you heard me say a million times that he's a tough little nut," said Williams. "He sort of took them on his back. He wanted to be fouled. He wanted the ball. He was willing to try and be aggressive."

Where Paige has excelled he most is his consistency. Whether it's from beyond the arc where he's pretty much been the only player that can drain a three, to his abilities at the free throw line where he's shooting nearly 90 percent, Paige has been guy UNC has relied upon to hit shots.

However, Williams would like a second or third guy to step up and take some of that pressure off Paige at some point this year.

"It is valuable. It would be a heck of a lot more valuable if everybody could," said Williams about Paige's free throws. "There's no question because what happens if they double team Marcus and don't let him get the ball? Then what are you going to do?"

J.P. Tokoto has been criticized before for being a non-threat on offense but he's really come around during wins against Michigan State and Kentucky. He's getting a little bit more consistent about taking smart shots and has been a little smoother with his stroke.

Williams has been impressed with his progress and gave him some credit during the show for the way he played on Saturday.

"I thought he really did some nice things. We needed him in there but his foul trouble has cut down his minutes. He showed good savvy too," said Williams.

Williams also talked about the giant elephant in the room during Monday's show. He knows, as well as the fans, that the team barely has a wing presence. The Heels are playing a couple of their big man out of position to help out but Williams says not having the type of players they need can't be an excuse.

Bottom line, the Tar Heels have to find a way to win games and Williams is proud of the way his team has done that thus far.

"Stats you can make what you want of them. Everybody's saying 'Well, your free throws are killing.' Well, defensive grades, I think that's killing us," said Williams. "You can't belabor it. You can't just spend all your time talking about it, you've got to coach and find a way to win with something you don't have.

"If I'm driving the ball terribly I'm not just going to go lay down in the locker room and cry. I've got to find some way to beat your butt," said Williams. "That's what basketball is. If you can't make the shot from the 3-point line, then do a great job with something else. Figure out a way to win the game. That's what this team is trying to do. Figure out a way to win."



 

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